Category : Afghanistan

(Independent) Record number of refugees would make 21st biggest country in the world

The number of people driven from their homes by war and persecution has now surpassed the UK’s population to equal the 21st largest country in the world.

More than 65.3 million people are currently refugees or are displaced in their own countries according to the United Nations ”“ the highest figure since records began before the Second World War.

Humanitarian organisations warn that those forced to flee face an uncertain future with difficulties in education, employment, health and security.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Anthropology, Asia, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Middle East, Politics in General, Syria, Theology

(NYT) Taliban Close to Overtaking Afghan Provincial Capital, Officials Say

Taliban insurgents on Thursday were on the verge of overrunning the southern city of Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province, Afghan officials and local elders said.

Dost Mohammad Nayab, a spokesman for the governor of Oruzgan, said that all security posts around the city had been overrun by the Taliban and that the insurgents had started firing on the police headquarters and the governor’s compound.

“The security forces are engaged with the Taliban inside the city, and fighting is ongoing,” Mr. Nayab said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology, Violence, War in Afghanistan

(LA Times) Outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan warns of worsening security

The outgoing commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan warned Congress on Tuesday that security there will deteriorate further from a resurgent Taliban unless the U.S. military makes a long-term commitment to stay.

Army Gen. John F. Campbell, who has led the international force since August 2014, said the Afghan military is “uneven and inconsistent” on the battlefield and is beset by corruption. He said the central government in Kabul probably won’t be able to fully defend itself until the 2020s.

The warning is the latest from a U.S. military officer that suggests the Pentagon wants to reconsider President Obama’s plan to cut the current U.S. deployment of 9,800 military advisors and Special Operations troops in half by the time he leaves office.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(NYT) As U.S. Focuses on ISIS and the Taliban, Al Qaeda Re-emerges

Even as the Obama administration scrambles to confront the Islamic State and resurgent Taliban, an old enemy seems to be reappearing in Afghanistan: Qaeda training camps are sprouting up there, forcing the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies to assess whether they could again become a breeding ground for attacks on the United States.

Most of the handful of camps are not as big as those that Osama bin Laden built before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But had they re-emerged several years ago, they would have rocketed to the top of potential threats presented to President Obama in his daily intelligence briefing. Now, they are just one of many ”” and perhaps, American officials say, not even the most urgent on the Pentagon’s list in Afghanistan.

The scope of Al Qaeda’s deadly resilience in Afghanistan appears to have caught American and Afghan officials by surprise. Until this fall, American officials had largely focused on targeting the last remaining senior Qaeda leaders hiding along Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous border with Pakistan.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Africa, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

(NYT) Afghan Taliban’s Reach Is Widest Since 2001, U.N. Says

The Taliban insurgency has spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to data compiled by the United Nations as well as interviews with numerous local officials in areas under threat.

In addition, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan over the past two weeks has evacuated four of its 13 provincial offices around the country ”” the most it has ever done for security reasons ”” according to local officials in the affected areas.

The data, compiled in early September ”” even before the latest surge in violence in northern Afghanistan ”” showed that United Nations security officials had already rated the threat level in about half of the country’s administrative districts as either “high” or “extreme,” more than at any time since the American invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

(LA Times) Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says attack on hospital was a mistake

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress on Tuesday that the deadly U.S. airstrike on a civilian hospital in Kunduz was a mistake, but he declined to endorse calls for an outside investigation.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said the hospital was “mistakenly struck” and that the decision to carry out the attack was made through the U.S. military chain of command.

Campbell thus offered a further refinement of previous Pentagon claims. On Monday, he told reporters that Afghan forces had called in the airstrike. The Pentagon initially had said the attack by an AC-130 gunship was ordered to protect U.S. forces on the ground.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(CNN) Doctors without borders urges independent inquiry after Afghan hospital blown apart

Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of the deadly bombing of its hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, which it says is no longer operational.

Aerial bombardments blew apart the medical facility about the time of a U.S. airstrike early Saturday, killing at least 19 people, officials said.

The blasts left part of the hospital in flames and rubble, killing 12 staffers and seven patients — including three children — and injuring 37 other people, the charity said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology, Violence

(NYT) American Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

A hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz was badly damaged early Saturday after being hit by what appears to have been an American airstrike. At least 19 people were killed, including 12 hospital staff members, and dozens wounded.

The United States military, in a statement, confirmed an airstrike at 2:15 a.m., saying that it had been targeting individuals “who were threatening the force” and that “there may have been collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

The airstrike set off fires that were still burning hours later, and a nurse who managed to climb out of the debris described seeing colleagues so badly burned that they had died.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Missions, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies

(Readers are cautioned about the difficult content in this–KSH.

In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Violence, War in Afghanistan

(NYT) The Quiet Demise of the Army’s Plan to Understand Afghanistan and Iraq

The Army created the Human Terrain System ”” at the height of the counterinsurgency craze that dominated American strategic thinking in Iraq and Afghanistan late in the last decade, with much fanfare ”” to solve this problem. Cultural training and deep, nuanced understanding of Afghan politics and history were in short supply in the Army; without them, good intelligence was hard to come by, and effective policy making was nearly impossible. Human Terrain Teams, as Human Terrain System units were known, were supposed to include people with social-science backgrounds, language skills and an understanding of Afghan or Iraqi culture, as well as veterans and reservists who would help bind the civilians to their assigned military units.

On that winter day in Zormat, however, just how far the Human Terrain System had fallen short of expectations was clear. Neither of the social scientists on the patrol that morning had spent time in Afghanistan before being deployed there. While one was reasonably qualified, the other was a pleasant 43-year-old woman who grew up in Indiana and Tennessee, and whose highest academic credential was an advanced degree in organizational management she received online. She had confided to me that she didn’t feel comfortable carrying a gun she was still learning how to use. Before arriving in Afghanistan, she had traveled outside the United States only once, to Jamaica ”” “and this ain’t Jamaica,” she told me.

She was out of her depth, but at least she tried to be professional.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Anthropology, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Iraq, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(Washington Post) David Petraeus: ISIS isn’t the biggest problem in Iraq

The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. [They] alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable. Iraq was bound to fail, they will argue, because of the inherently sectarian character of the Iraqi people. I don’t agree with that assessment.

The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted ”” and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.

As for the U.S. role, could all of this have been averted if we had kept 10,000 troops here? I honestly don’t know. I certainly wish we could have tested the proposition and kept a substantial force on the ground.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(NY Times) U.S. Is Escalating a Secretive War in Afghanistan

As an October chill fell on the mountain passes that separate the militant havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small team of Afghan intelligence commandos and American Special Operations forces descended on a village where they believed a leader of Al Qaeda was hiding.

That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.

American military officials said the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after members of the Navy SEALs killed him in 2011.

In the months since, the trove of intelligence has helped fuel a significant increase in night raids by American Special Operations forces and Afghan intelligence commandos, Afghan and American officials said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Terrorism, The U.S. Government, Theology

(CSM) Afghanistan: US should 're-examine' withdrawing from country

Afghanistan’s president says that the US should “re-examine” its plans to withdraw its forces from his country, just days after the official end of combat operations there.

Last week, NATO forces closed down “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the campaign it has run in Afghanistan since 2001, in what The Christian Science Monitor described as “a small Sunday ceremony that made it clear that NATO was not interested in calling a great deal of attention to the occasion.”

Some 13,000 troops, mostly American, will remain in the country to help train Afghan forces and to conduct “counterterrorism” operations “against the remnants of Al Qaeda,” US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. These forces in turn are due to withdraw by the end of 2016.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(Der Spiegel) The Road to Bamiyan: A Public Works Debacle that Defines Afghanistan

[Vittorio] Roscio hasn’t visited the construction site for ages because it is too dangerous. Instead, he reads the reports here, behind the walls of the Italian government’s campus in Kabul. Over the years, the walls became thicker and thicker, the barbed wire higher and the security protocols stricter. In 2007, Rocio could still walk relatively freely through the streets of Kabul. Now, though, he climbs into a bullet-proof Toyota SUV even for the 30 meters to the Italian Embassy.

Like all international workers in Kabul, Roscio lives in the equivalent of a high security cage and is rarely allowed to go out. As such, his influence over the road to Bamiyan has fallen markedly over the years.

“It is unfortunately extremely difficult to understand Afghanistan from the perspective of Kabul,” Roscio says tiredly. “And it is completely impossible to understand Afghanistan from Europe or America. No chance.” He gets into one of the bullet-proof Toyotas and is driven to the Italian Embassy. The wall opens briefly to let him out and closes again immediately.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(CSM) Edward Girardet–Allowing Afghanistan's future to be hijacked

The West’s involvement in Afghanistan over the past 12 years has been dominated by one failed opportunity after another. Rather than focusing so massively on the military effort rather than well-informed and better-targeted recovery, for example, the international community could have made a significant difference by supporting a proposal made back in 2002, notably the introduction of electronic ID cards. But the idea was consistently ignored as “impractical.” And yet, in a society where mobile phones are now ubiquitous, it could have served as a relatively reliable voter ID, perhaps preventing stuffed ballots. It could also have helped monitor health, educational, and other crucial data, such as vaccination programs.

For Afghans, the elections are broadly perceived as their last chance before the bulk of foreign troops leave and global development commitment drops even further. Nevertheless, even though Afghans have traditionally proved adept at compromise, the voting abuses may have gone too far. People went to the polls to have their say. To have their vote turned into a shared coalition government primarily because of corruption and abuse of the voting process may only be sending the message that there is no point in democracy.

Yet this does not mean the West should abandon Afghanistan. The last time the West lost interest was after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. This led to a ruthless civil war during the early 1990s followed by the rise of the Taliban supported by Al Qaeda, Pakistan, and even the United States. By the time Washington understood what was happening, it was too late.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Theology, War in Afghanistan